Lady Tigers start strong, finish strong

After dropping its first Southeastern Conference home game against Texas A&M following a strong start Thursday night, the LSU women’s basketball team opted to keep its feet on the pedal in a 82-68 victory against Florida on Sunday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Lady Tigers senior guard Jeanne Kenney opened the scoring with a 3-pointer in the first two minutes. Florida got on the board with a jumper by sophomore guard Cassie Peoples, but it was all Lady Tigers from there.

The No. 12 Lady Tigers (13-3, 2-1 SEC) went on an 11-0 run with the help of sophomore guard Danielle Ballard.

Before halftime, Ballard was 5-of-8 from the field, including four rebounds and five assists.

By halftime, LSU had a 15-point lead after shooting 50 percent from the field.

It also finished 6-of-8 from the free-throw line, something the team was unable to accomplish after failing to attempt a free throw in the first half against the Aggies.

Florida (13-4, 3-1) faced a stout Lady Tiger defense, but it ultimately struggled in every offensive facet, hitting only 22.2 percent of its shots from the field and finishing the first half 2-of-9 from 3-point range.

“Florida is a better second-half team than in the first half, so we knew if we could get a quick start on them in the first half, then … we should have enough cushion to keep that lead,” senior forward Theresa Plaisance said.

“In the second half, they went on their run, and we did a good job of maintaining and controlling it.

“We did what we had to do, and we didn’t let them go ahead like in the Texas A&M game,” Plaisance said

A different Gators squad reappeared after halftime.

The trio of Peoples, sophomore guard Carlie Needles and junior guard Kayla Lewis combined for 39 points in the second half, drawing within seven with 8:16 remaining.

Against Texas A&M, lethargic play and poor shooting by the Lady Tigers led to an Aggies comeback and eventual loss for LSU.

LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said she looked to one of her players to ensure a repeat of Thursday’s final wouldn’t occur.

“Ballard was two different players,” Caldwell said. “Thursday night, I thought Ballard played as complacent as I’ve seen her play all year. Tonight, I felt she was aggressive, and she had this ‘You can’t stop me’ mentality. I felt she was ready to set the tone for our team, and she did just that.”

Ballard led the Lady Tigers with 12 rebounds, eight of which came in the second half. The team finished with 50 total rebounds, 21 more than Florida. Ballard also finished with 14 points, five assists and two steals.

Both she and Plaisance helped to shut the door on the Gators in the second half.

“(Ballard) also has really great vision and high anticipation, so that’s another reason she gets steals on defense,” Plaisance said. “She reads those rebounds just as well as she reads passers.”